Building on Book Five’s considerations of the person and redemptive deed of Christ, Book Six of Matthias Joseph Scheeben’s Handbook of Catholic Dogmatics offers his account of the subjective realization of salvation through Christ’s bestowal of grace. This stands as Scheeben’s fullest treatment of the much-contested notion of actual grace and the issues related to the sixteenth-century de auxiliis controversy concerning predestination and how God moves the human will. Progressing in three parts, Book Six commences with an analysis of the concept of actual grace, establishing how God can move the will without compelling it and providing a richly developed context for understanding God’s motive influence. The second part examines three principal heresies concerning grace—namely, Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism, and the Reformation doctrines—using these as a basis for evaluating the Catholic dogmas about grace that were articulated against them. Finally, in the third part Scheeben explores the necessity of grace in light of man’s fallen condition and his supernatural end.
MATTHIAS JOSEPH SCHEEBEN (1835–1888) was a German priest and scholar whose theology points to the inner coherence of the Christian faith and its supernatural mysteries. Notable in his own time, Scheeben later received praise from Pope Pius XI, who in 1935 encouraged study of the late theologian’s works, reflecting: “The entire theology of Scheeben bears the stamp of a pious ascetical theology.” Hans Urs von Balthasar credited Scheeben as “the greatest German theologian to date.” Scheeben’s works include Nature and Grace, The Mysteries of Christianity, and the unfinished Handbook of Catholic Dogmatics.
“The culmination of his theological career, this volume of Matthias Scheeben’s celebrated Handbook of Catholic Dogmatics is the most precise, most detailed, and most challenging in the master’s corpus, superior—if one can believe it—even to his celebrated treatise on the Blessed Virgin Mary. In Scheeben’s treatise on grace, one finds the harvest of almost fifteen hundred years of reflection on St. Augustine’s doctrine, an enlightening history of the division between actual and habitual grace, searching etymological investigations of the full array of technical terms used in Scholastic debates, and the master’s adjudication of controversies between Thomists, Molinists, Jansenists, and Reformers. Sympathetic to all—but beholden to none—Scheeben restores the properly patristic notion of delectatio to Catholic theology, exposes differences between the interpreters of St. Thomas Aquinas, and reformulates the basic questions of the de auxiliis controversy—all to the end of presenting his own theology of the dynamic-organic ordination of the will to God’s grace. It is, quite simply, the greatest single treatise on grace in modern Catholic theology.”
—Trent Pomplun, University of Notre Dame
“This volume completes Michael Miller’s masterful translation of Scheeben’s magnum opus, a triumph for Emmaus Academic. Scheeben’s first published book was on the topic of nature and grace, and his Dogmatics comes to an end with this masterwork on grace, published shortly before his death. His entire life was a celebration of Christ’s grace, given to us by the Holy Spirit. To understand how significant this witness is, consider the fact that Scheeben wrote during Bismarck’s Kulturkampf, during which the seminaries in Germany were shut down and bishops were imprisoned. Bismarck’s purpose was to tame the Catholic Church, which he considered backward and too Italian—all for the purpose of German nationalism. And Bismarck was supported by prominent Catholic university professors, among them the excommunicated but still extraordinarily influential prince of German Catholic historians Ignaz von Döllinger, who rejected Vatican I and who stood in many ways as a harbinger of the modernist rationalism that would dominate the early and late twentieth century in Catholic academia. In the midst of this fraught context, Scheeben undertakes a biblically grounded investigation of grace that demonstrates a mastery of the patristic, medieval, Reformation and post-Tridentine, and nineteenth-century discussions. Readers of this book will receive a profound education in the development and continuity of Catholic theology with respect to Christ the divine physician, to the economy of justification and salvation, to the distinctions within the order of grace, and to the greatest contributors to the theme, particularly after the Council of Trent. Recovering the wisdom and disagreements of the diverse Thomistic commentators, including the Jesuits (Molinists), the Dominicans (largely Bañezians), and the Carmelites would be theological education enough; and the massive works by Soto, Bellarmine, and Suarez find condensed expression here. But the scriptural, patristic, and sacramental depths of Scheeben’s treatment are also striking and instructive, as are his controversies vis-a-vis Pelagius, Luther, Calvin, Baius, and Jansen, whose names evoke the lines beyond which Catholic theology of grace goes at its peril. In this book, too, one finds not only depth-soundings in justification and sanctification which need reclaiming today, but also Scheeben’s own Jesuit-influenced grappling with the biblical mystery of predestination or election. This final volume of Scheeben’s Dogmatics is a feast of faith, a tour de force of faith seeking understanding via the lights of Scripture and Tradition, guided by the Church’s dogmatic teaching and controversies, as well as by the great theologians and saints from the Fathers onward. Like grace itself, this book comes to English-speaking theology as a gift and an illumination.”
—Matthew Levering, Mundelein Seminary
“Grace, as a topic of systematic theology, has not attracted much attention among recent academic dogmatic and historical theologians. With the publication of this classic work, this lacuna has now been somewhat rectified, for it can now be the source for seminary and graduate courses, as well as an incentive for scholars to take up this important theological topic once again. Scheeben’s masterful and creative study is well worth reading. His theological treatment of the doctrine of grace brings to the fore God’s great love for humankind made manifest in Jesus Christ and consummated through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.”
—Thomas G. Weinandy, OFM., Cap., Former Member of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission